Government publishes 'Integrated Communities' green paper

On 14 March 2018 the government published its Green Paper, ‘Integrated Communities.’ Responses are invited to its proposals by 5 June 2018. The paper describes, and proposes policies addressing, segregation along race, faith and socio-economic lines in England.The government believes that the relatively high degree of separation of pupils of different ethnicities across schools evidenced in some areas “can restrict pupils’ outlook and education.”

A chapter is devoted to the government’s proposals to facilitate integration in schools. The government’s stated aim for schools is to “make sure that all children and young people are prepared for life in modern Britain and have the opportunity for meaningful social mixing with those from different backgrounds”. To that end, the government proposes to:

  • work with local admission authorities in five trial Integration Areas to help ensure the intake of schools are more representative of the wider area;
  • strengthen expectations on integration for new free schools;
  • promote mixing and twinning arrangements between schools in areas of high segregation;
  • support teachers to promote British values across the curriculum; and
  • work with Ofsted to ensure that there is strong coverage of schools’ promotion of fundamental British values and integration within its new inspection arrangements.

The paper’s proposals, of which the above is not an exhaustive list, are still in development. The Green Paper and responses to it are a key phase of that development. However, schools should note the measures proposed to improve integration and prepare for the government to take steps to encourage or even require these in the future. Admissions arrangements and Ofsted inspection criteria are particular examples.

The report states that the government “will develop a range of model admissions arrangements, including ones based on varied catchment areas that include diverse residential areas.”

Regarding Ofsted, the report proposes that Ofsted “will ensure that there is strong coverage of schools’ promotion of fundamental British values and integration within its new inspection arrangements from September 2019, which are currently in development, and ensure it is a priority.”

Funding agreements for new free schools may be expected to reflect the government’s focus on integration. The Paper suggests that future applicants to set up new free schools will be required by their funding agreements to show that their schools will:

  1. prepare children for life in modern Britain;
  2. promote fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs;
  3. seek to attract pupils from a range of different backgrounds and communities, and provide evidence of their efforts to reflect the social and ethnic make-up of the area; and
  4. encourage pupils from different communities, faiths and backgrounds to work together, learn about each other’s customs, beliefs and ideas and respect each other’s views.

Further proposals relate to recent concerns by proposing stronger regulation of out-of-school settings, home schooling, and unregistered schools, the development of materials to support teachers in promoting fundamental British values, and a firmer approach to enforcing standards in independent schools.

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